Farmington River Report 11/5/19: Early fireworks

I guided Drew today, and to celebrate Guy Fawkes’ Day we started off with a bang: two trout on two casts! Drew is new to the Farmington and relatively new to trout fishing, so given the time of year and conditions (cold, 310cfs) our task was to cover some water and work on the nymphing game. The specific method was indicator nymphing, drop shot rig, and we went with a sz 14 Frenchie Variant and a sz 18 SHPT. The trout liked both, the Frenchie being the favorite.

First cast, the indicator merely twitched. Look for a reason to set the hook on every drift!

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Second cast. At this point it was proposed that we quit and go get coffee and doughnuts. The motion failed.

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Angler traffic was light, and we did not see any other fish hooked today. (Thanks to the one gentleman who offered to share the water!) We hit four marks and found fish in two of them. Four trout to net, a few more lost at hookset, and we called it a very good day.  Nice job, Drew!

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Thank you Thames Valley TU! Individual members awarded Legion of Cheeseburger Merit with Double IPA Clusters and the Croix d’Cigar, plus the question of the night

Many thanks to the Thames Valley TU Chapter for hosting me last night. The meeting was very well attended, and I was pleased to see so many familiar faces (I even remembered some of the names!) I opened with a reading from my recent EFF article on the Farmington River, then it was on to the new and improved presentation. Good stuff.

Special mention to TVTU member and long-time currentseams follower Alton Blodgett who treated me to a great burger and beer at the Willimantic Brewing Company. A fed presenter is a happy presenter! Thanks also to the kind gentleman (rats, I forgot your name, good sir) who gifted me the lovely Casa Fernandez toro.

The question of the evening centered around proper catch and release technique. Here’s the gist of my long-form answer: it starts with barbless hooks and a net made of fish-friendly material (not that old knotted nylon garbage). The less you handle the fish, the better. The less you expose the fish to air, the better. If you’re going to take a photo, make it fish friendly. Either keep the trout in the water, as I’m doing here…

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…or make your hero shot photo op brief. Get your camera ready, and if you’re flying solo, program it to take multiple shots automatically. Here’s a good example of not keeping the fish out of the river for too long. Note the water droplets cascading off the fish — it’s literally been out of the water for less than 5 seconds. I shot it with a GoPro attached to my landing net.

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See you tonight for “Wet Flies 101,” Capital District Fly Fishers, Colonie VFW Post 8692, 140 VFW Road, Colonie, NY.

Farmington River Report 9/25/19: The soft hackles have it

I guided repeat client John yesterday and we were blessed with spectacular weather. Water was low (130/160cfs, permanent TMA/Unionville) but very fishable and cool, even down south. John wanted to work on his wet fly game, so we headed up to Riverton to take advantage of the recent stocking. If the DEEP trucks made a recent visit, we saw no evidence of it: we hit three marks in two hours, and waded hundreds of yards of water without a single touch. Other anglers we encountered also reported blanking. Very curious.

Look like a good place for a SOB-ing trout to be hiding out? I certainly thought so. John covering some very sexy water with a team of three.

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Thus spanked, we headed down to the permanent TMA for a nymphing lesson. John had never done any nymphing, but he took to it quickly, and before too long was rewarded with a gorgeous Survivor Strain brown. We took one more rainbow, and both fish came on the top dropper, a tiny (sz 18 2x short) SHPT.

Parr marks, haloed spots, clipped adipose and obstreperous behavior once netted clearly IDed this fish as a Survivor Strain brown. Not a bad first Farmington River brown, nor a bad first trout ever on a nymph!

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We finished up swinging wets on the lower river and brought a few more fish to hand. Nice job John in some challenging conditions!

This seems like a good time to mention that I am a teaching guide, and if you’re like John — someone who has had some success in fly fishing but wants to expand their skill set — maybe you should consider a few hours on the water with me. I teach anglers of all levels, from beginner to experienced. You can find out more here.

 

 

 

Farmington River article in the Sept/Oct issue of Eastern Fly Fishing

Hot off the presses! “West Branch Farmington River — Southern New England’s Blue Ribbon Trout Stream” by yours truly is in the current (September/October) issue of Eastern Fly Fishing. Many thanks to UpCountry Sportfishing’s Torrey Collins and CT DEEP Fisheries Biologists Neal Hagstrom and Brian Eltz for lending their comments. If you don’t subscribe, you can get a copy on newsstands or you can check here.

It’s a privilege to able to write about the places that I love to fish. How fortunate we are to have the Farmington River so close to home.

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Is it OK to fish the Farmington in low summer flows?

I received a great question today: “How about a straight answer about fishing the river at the level it is at right now. I was told I’m crazy for staying away – my thought is it’s not good for the fish or the fisherman. Be honest please.” I’m assuming the question is about the Farmington.

Those of you who know me know I have nothing to sell you but the truth. So here we go.

The simple answer is: most of the time, yes. The Farmington is, after all, a tailwater. If you’re unsure what that means, its flow is generated by a bottom dam release, in this case Hogback Reservoir. In an average year, the reservoir will have a good amount of water in it, such that the bottom strata will be much cooler than the surface. I can tell you from experience that I’ve shivered for hours in the river on a 90 degree day in July. That water is plenty cold.

Fog is what happens when frosty water meets warm, humid air. This shot is from mid-summer.

Morning Fog

What happens in a drought year? In the most extreme years, it can get ugly. Go back to our most recent severe drought year, 2016. The water release was in the paltry double digits, and because there was so little water in the reservoir, what was coming out of the chute was in the mid 60s — not good. Take that water, bake it over several miles, and we had fish kills. The DEEP even declared thermal refuges, unprecedented for the Farmington River. I advised people to not fish.

So what about right now? The release is 118cfs, not great, but it’s coming out cold (the Still is adding 12cfs for a total of 130) as we had plenty of water this spring. Where you fish matters. The run from Hogback to Riverton right is plenty healthy for fish. Naturally, it will warm as it travels downstream. The water may be stressful to trout by the time it gets to Unionville. But every day is different — today it’s cloudy and in the upper 70s, not exactly a river-under-a-heat lamp. If it were sunny and blast-furnace hot, you’d have a different dynamic.

When you fish matters, too. From dawn through when the sun tops the trees is the coolest the river will be on any given summer day.

In conclusion: Use the stoutest tippet you can to get those fish in fast. Don’t take them out of the water. Fish when and where the water is coolest. Use common sense, and you’ll fish with a clear conscience.

 

Friday Farmy/Hous Mini-Report: Cold and Hot and Not Much in Between

On Friday I guided Mark on a Farmy-Hous doubleheader. While the air was sweltering, the Farmy was pleasantly cool — and the fishing downright cold. We were nymphing, and in two high-probability runs we could only manage to stick one fish. In fact, we shared the water with close to a dozen anglers at various times between 12:30 and 3:30, and we saw only one other fish caught. Hatch activity was slow to non-existent. Feh. Off to the Hous.

Which didn’t fish much better — at first — and was a totally disgusting sweat lodge into the bargain. First spot in the TMA: blank. Second spot: a few customers. Third spot: Really? Nothing? OK, nothing until 8:15, then the switch was thrown, but even then we weren’t exactly lighting it up. Nonetheless, a strong finish to a tough day, and Mark did a great job of working through it.

Yeah, man. That’s what we like to see. The Countermeasures pattern did its usual reliable work at dusk, particularly in frog water and along the edges. Before dark, we had our best action in the “hot” water: bubbling, gurgling oxygenated flows like this.

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Only three guide days open through August 13

If you’re looking to head out with me midsummer — wet flies, nymphing, hopper/dropper, whatever — the pickings are slim: I have two mid-day half days open on Monday July 15 and Tuesday July 16, and either a full or half day open July 22. That’s it. You know where to find me.

I love summertime on the Farmington.

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